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The task of eliminating paper in your office may seem too daunting to consider. While it’s not an overnight process, it is achievable and well worth the effort.  One of my colleagues, Kevin J. Newell, Chief Operating Officer of Hymson Goldstein & Pantiliat, PLLC, completely eliminated paper files at his law firm about 3 years ago.  I recently interviewed Kevin to share his story.

Q:   Why did you consider transforming your office to a paperless environment?

A:    To cut costs, to have everyone have access to the same information at the same time, and to ensure everybody had immediate access to whatever documents they needed anytime, anywhere, worldwide.

Q:   How did you achieve buy-in from the partners and other firm members?

A:    I worked with the partners to establish a committee that would test the paperless system and to receive input on the functionality of paperless client files.  Surprisingly, all firm members bought into the system.  The attorneys were all a big part of the process and performed beta testing in legal practice before the official cutover.

Q:   What tools did you need for your project?

A:   A robust document management system is essential, along with efficient personal scanners, and PCs with multi-monitors. We determined to be efficient and support a natural workflow, scanning needed to take place at the desktop, not at a shared scanner/copier. The scanners needed to be fast, scan in color, and support both sheet-fed and scanning off the glass.

Q:   How long did it take to scan all the documents?

A:    It was done in 3 phases. New client matters after the cutover were required to be paperless with no paper file.  Active matters were also immediately scanned when our paperless process went live. The third piece was to scan closed matters within our retention policy which was outsourced to a third party.  The process from the date of implementation to loading scanned closed matters took approximately one year.

Q:   Did you discard all of the paper once the documents were scanned?

A:    Yes, except for originally signed documents and those client files needing to be retained based on our retention policy.

Q:   What cost savings did you notice?

A:    A dramatic reduction in administrative overhead. Over the past couple years, we reduced our ratio of staff to attorneys from 2 to 1 all the way down to 0.75 to 1.  That ratio includes legal assistants and paralegals as part of the staff.  The savings went far beyond reduced payroll & benefits.  It allowed for fewer computers, software licenses, phones, and everything that staff requires. With fewer staff to manage, it personally freed me up to work on other items to further improve the firm’s operations. Our physical footprint can now be reduced, as we recovered 800 square feet of office space from the file room that was completely eliminated.

What other benefits besides cost savings have you seen?

A:    We are far more organized. We are faster at both filing and retrieving information. We have improved security control, since we are able to track how and when documents are checked out or edited. As a side note, since everything is paperless and you need to review and/or edit documents routinely to perform your job, we have even used this audit trail to further investigate and validate occasional employee productivity concerns. It is also nearly impossible to misplace documents since everything is immediately searchable by multiple parameters. With everything being digital, we have multiple digital backups in our office and encrypted and stored offsite.

However, the largest impact by far is improved client service. Anyone logged into a computer and connected to the network anywhere in the world can retrieve any file immediately. That translates into much more rapid client response, especially for a client calling on an older matter that would have been pulled from off-site storage when we still had paper files.

Q:   Can people contact you for more information?

A:    Absolutely! Contact me by e-mail at kjn@legalcounselors.com

 Mr. Kevin J. Newell is the Chief Operating Officer of Hymson Goldstein & Pantiliat, PLLC.